What happened to the history of the Lewinsky scandal was the justification that Bill Clinton gave for his famous lie “I have never had sex with Monica Lewinsky” when he stuck to his particular description of those relationships: he “did not come into contact” with parties of her body such as “genitals, anus, groin, breasts, inner thigh or buttocks”, so “it was not intended to satisfy or arouse anyone’s sexual desire”. Of course, he received oral sex; that is to say, little less than the president of the United States had stumbled naked with a 22-year-old fellow kneeling at that moment in the Oval Office. It was not a case for justice but for Marie Kondo.
This point of Clinton’s legal defense overlapped the really interesting one, when on the NewsHour program, and before the evidence against him appeared, he told presenter Jim Lehrer: “There is no sexual relationship whatsoever. [con Mónica Lewinsky]”. After proving yes, Clinton’s defense clarified that the president had told the truth: he used the verb “there is,” and at that time he no longer saw Lewinsky. And if you were watching, the “no sexual relationship” would have referred to that exact moment, since Clinton was not having sex with Monica Lewinsky on the set in front of Jim Lehrer.
Clinton lied using a truth. It implied something that was not true. In English this is called paltering; in Spain the closest, but not exact, would be to cajole. This is explained by Victoria Pradilla, who has translated for Captain Swing an important essay for journalists and politicians and those who want to defend themselves against them, Bullshit: Against charlatanism, written by Carl T. Bergstrom and Jevin D. West. In it they dissect very current aspects of public discussion. One of them is the so-called pragmatic implication, which is to use a phrase so that it has a concrete meaning, not the literal one.
There is a normal use of pragmatic involvement whereby dozens of people die daily in the networks who are not seen beyond the literality of the phrase; there is another, more vicious use that allows us to deceive without getting our fingers caught. As when it is said, I put an example from the book, “John does not shoot himself when he is working”, suggesting that he is a drug addict. There has been a recent case in the Spanish press, when the newspaper The Objective published that a former minister made “parties with women” and left the rooms “with remains of everything.” Who doesn’t party with women? Who does not leave remains of something in a hotel room? This is a paradigmatic example. Several sources have said that a relevant man made parties with prostitutes and drugs; Why would a newspaper, whose job it is to seek and tell the truth, have to discount it when it finds it? Because when you tell it you have to prove it; when sliding it, no.
On the truth and its confines, precisely, Arcadi Espada has just published a very interesting book in Peninsula that contains this statement: “The truth is an indispensable public good and as such it must be regulated.” The fact is that we do not know if John or the former minister take drugs outside of work (we are not even sure, if they do it with their money, if we care); Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not. They have not told us the truth: they have given us to understand, a terrible expression because it means that one does not take responsibility for what he says, and if we know something about words, it is that they are not pronounced alone. Bergstrom and West denounce precisely that: the use, very often, of the gap between the literal meaning of a sentence and what it implies.
The John who doesn’t shoot himself when he’s working can go to court to defend his honor, but in what way? The defendant has told the truth, and John may not want the talk for days, in court and in the newspapers, whether or not he is taking drugs outside of work; In the same way, what will the former minister say in a hypothetical trial? That he parties only with men? That before leaving a room, he sweeps the floor? You know exactly what you are being accused of, but you have no idea what to defend yourself against.
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